A 35-year-old man who was arrested for sexually assaulting a college student in Lancaster may be connected with at least three other similar cases in the Antelope Valley, authorities said Tuesday.
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Los Angeles County sheriff's investigators said they have linked Lancaster resident James Smith to the alleged crimes that date to 2012. He was identified through DNA testing, his physical appearance and his car description. Investigators said Smith lured or forced his victims into his car before sexually assaulting them.
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In the most recent case, investigators said an Antelope Valley College student was walking on 33rd Street West before 2 p.m. Monday when Smith walked up from behind, placed her in a bear hug, forced her into his car and drove her to a nearby abandoned home, where he sexually assaulted her in the backyard.
When Smith took off in his car, the 19-year-old victim walked to a nearby home and called for help, investigators said.
Based on the victim's account, investigators said they knew immediately that he could be the man they were searching for.
About an hour and a half later, deputies found Smith sitting in his parked car in the 1000 block of West Avenue H-12 and took him into custody.
In two previous cases, one in mid-May and the other on June 2, investigators said Smith pulled up in his car besides women, paid a compliment and offered a ride. Once they got into the car, he drove them to a location where he sexually assaulted them.
DNA evidence also linked Smith to a sexual assault that took place in 2012, investigators said.
Smith did not use a weapon, deputies said.
"Clearly abducting a woman in broad daylight, you know, is stepping it up a notch," Lancaster Sheriff's Sgt. Brian Hudson said.
Investigators are asking potential additional victims to come forward.
Smith faces kidnapping and sexual assault charges, officials said. He was being held on $1.1 million bail.